I thought it was interesting that in the ajc.com poll on whether UGA should consider playing two quarterbacks this season, 63 percent of the folks responding said yes.
On the surface, it seems like a no-brainer. The more real game experience your backup quarterback gets, the better off you’ll be if your starter goes down for some reason. And it’ll be a plus the following season when your senior starter has graduated. We all remember all too well what it’s like to enter a season with no experienced QB.
But it’s not that cut-and-dried. While D.J. Shockley went on to become a UGA hero when he finally became the starter in his senior season, the not-quite-but-sort-of dual quarterback system that Mark Richt used during the time Shockley was backing up David Greene didn’t work all that smoothly.
Initially there was some minor controversy among fans as to which QB should be starting, with a vocal minority lobbying for Shockley. Noises from the Shockley camp about him possibly tranferring didn’t help. But Richt wisely stuck with Greene, though he continued to give Shockley regular playing time. I remember watching Greene thread the needle on a particularly difficult pass for a first down that season and my son commenting, “How can you not keep in a player who can make a throw like that?”
Once Greene was established, the tide in fan sentiment turned a bit, at least in my section of Sanford Stadium. I remember fans gritting their teeth and muttering when Greene would be pulled according to Richt’s arbitrary game “script” (usually for the third offensive series) to insert Shockley, frequently taking the momentum out of Georgia’s offense and disrupting Greene’s rhythm. It’s not like Greene wasn’t getting it done; it was simply Shockley’s turn.
But Shockley the backup wasn’t nearly the confident, proficient player that Shockley the starter later would be, and he often tried to do too much in his brief time in the game, resulting in errors like that dismal pick he threw against Florida, resulting in a Gator touchdown.
At the same time, I’m sure Shockley’s performance his senior season was due at least in part to the playing time he’d had as a backup.
So, to bring it back to the current situation, I don’t really have a problem with giving the backup (presumably Logan Gray) regular playing time. In fact, I think it would be a good idea. (This is assuming, of course, that Joe Cox plays up to expectations and remains the starter.)
The key is how you do it. Following an artificial script that doesn’t take into account how the game’s momentum is going, as Richt initially did with Shockley, is counterproductive. Of course, it can be tough to determine when is the right time to insert a “change of pace” quarterback. Should he be used for entire series, or is it better to put him in, for instance, on a down when it might help to have a quarterback who’s more of a running threat? And if you give him entire series, should you wait until the game is well in hand, or is such “mop-up” playing time not really all that valuable? That’s something Mike Bobo and Richt have to determine.
As my son pointed out when we were discussing this, one danger in playing two QBs, of course, is falling into the Spurrier syndrome where you pull them so often that the players’ confidence is wrecked. But Richt has never shown that tendency, thank goodness, as was evidenced when he stuck with Matthew Stafford through thick and thin once he’d settled on him as the starter in the second half of the 2006 season.
So what do you think? Alternate series? Insert Gray for key plays? Mop-up duty only?